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On the front burner

Jan 03,2017 - Last updated at Jan 03,2017

The very cold weather the country has been witnessing for some time now has brought the issue of school heating to the forefront.

Students attending public schools in near zero temperatures have to endure the long school hours wearing heavy coats and sweaters, not the most “enabling” environment.

His Majesty King Abdullah asked the government last winter to provide heating in schools, beginning with those in areas that witness colder weather, such as Ajloun in the north and Tafileh in the south, yet despite the King’s advice that students should not have to spend hours in near freezing classrooms, the Ministry of Education has not managed to do much about this challenge due, no doubt, to financial constraints.

The government has improvised by providing kerosene-operated heaters to many schools, but not all.

Kerosene heaters cause all sorts of health problems, including respiratory diseases, and school directors warned their superiors that they are neither safe nor efficient, but in the absence of a better option, they become acceptable.

The problem has persisted for a long time now, and there is no effective solution in sight.

Perhaps heating was not needed at the time most schools were built, but the weather is going extreme, and a solution has to be found.

Public schools were not designed with central heating in mind. That makes it more difficult to install the system now, but there are schools that resort to solar heating, and this is the way to go.

Of course, there are costs to consider, but keeping schoolchildren warm in winter — and cool in the summer, if possible — should be a matter of priority.

The private sector could play an important role; it could adopt schools and support at least part of the cost of installing solar heating.

Creating an appropriate learning environment is absolutely necessary if we wish to see a positive outcome, and heating is part of that environment.

Winter has at least two more months to go. If they continue to be as cold as we have seen so far, schoolchildren are indeed going to suffer.

 

Something has to be done, and fast.

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